Search This Blog

Loading...

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Stalking Book Bloggers


Yesterday I tried to make a comment on a blog I enjoy, the cheerful YA Yeah Yeah, published by Jim, a gentleman who likes YA mainstream fiction, though he does occasionally review genre fiction. (A blog I highly recommend, btw, check it out at www.yayeahyeah.com) I have always been able to comment on this blog, but I received a message saying that you could only comment if you were part of the "team". As Jim and I follow each other on Twitter I sent him a Direct Message, asking what was happening, and he explained that he had switched off comments because of a recent incident where an author upset over a bad review had actually stalked a reviewer! He seems to have even deleted his contact details on the blog.

Now, Jim doesn't do bad reviews; he only reviews books he likes, as "recommendations". But there are some scary people out there, who might take offence at the mildest criticism. I've had some strange folk submitting comments to this blog, though I don't publish them these days. My comments setting is on "moderation" so comments are published when I've had a look at them. So far, though, it's only been weird, not abusive, and I certainly haven't been stalked.  In some cases I even published the comments until they were just too much. There was one writer who complained and argued about some things I said in my review. It wasn't a bad review, because like Jim, I mostly stick to books I like - life is too short to finish books I hate and I'd have to do that to review them fairly. I just said what I thought about certain aspects of the book that made no sense to me. This wasn't good enough for that author, who argued with me. I published the comments, but I won't be reviewing anything by that author again. As she's a well known writer, she probably doesn't need my publicity, but it all helps, doesn't it? So not a good idea on her part.

At least she didn't  phone me up or turn up at my home, let alone write an article about it for the Guardian!

I'm a writer. I will admit to hating some of the reviews on Goodreads. My own books have been subject to extreme rudeness now and then from people who have read about eight pages. I've seen people giving five star ratings to books that haven't been published yet. Now, that is weird! So is giving a one star rating without reading a book. By all means, say you refuse to read something, but if you haven't read it, don't rate it.

I know at least one reviewer who said horrible things about a particular book, then read not one but both the sequels and was rude about those too - really, would you read a sequel to a book you hated? I wouldn't. I came to the conclusion that this particular reviewer enjoyed saying witty things about the books she hated and having around 1000 admiring comments from her followers.

But hey, you need a thick skin to survive in this occupation. As a slush reader, I have come across whinges and whines on author blogs and writer forums about those horrible people at ASIM who were rude about their babies when they rejected their works of genius. Get over it, guys! Grow a thicker skin and just submit somewhere else, or you might have an even harder time when you do have something published.

The thing is, when I was growing up, there was no Internet. Books were reviewed in newspapers and magazines by professionals. Now, anyone can be a reviewer, just as  anyone can be a published writer. It's a different world. We just have to live with it and hopefully we can do that while remaining civil to each other.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Of Grammar And Communication

There was an article on grammar in yesterday's Melbourne newspaper, the Age - no point  putting in a link as you have to be a subscriber to read most Age items online. The comments section has now closed, so I thought I'd put in my penny's worth here instead. It's all about writing, after all

The author made the very good point that, however you feel about it, grammar is about communication. A lot of once-ironclad rules have been dropped over the years. Few people these days worry about ending a sentence on a preposition or starting a sentence with a conjunction. I know I don't. These days, who cares if you use "their" with "everyone" instead of the awkwardness of "his or her"? And there is, of course, the most famous split infinitive of all time - "to boldly go" ! It's poetic. In that particular case "to go boldly" would be jarring. They did fix the political incorrectness of "where no man has gone before", of course, with the almost as poetic "where no one has gone before" (strictly speaking, it's still politically incorrect, because of all the non-humans living on those planets the Enterprise visits, so clearly, someone has gone there before, but you can't keep a good line down, so stuff correctness!)

I hated the dullness of doing grammar from the textbook when I was at school, because I was good at it. I was naturally good at it. I couldn't explain why you said this instead of that. Heck, I couldn't even tell you the definition of a dangling participle till about five minutes ago. I still can't explain it, though examples are good. The Dictionary.com example is: "Plunging hundreds of feet into the gorge, we saw Yosemite Falls." You can see why it's not a good idea to write this unless you're writing about a bunch of tourists noticing things as they fall into a gorge, just before they go splat at the bottom. It's not something I would ever write, myself, because it doesn't make sense, does it? 

Most people, though, aren't naturally good at it. And many would not see anything weird in that sentence about the suicidal tourists. I'm betting most of my Year 8 students wouldn't. They would say, "But we know what that sentence means, Miss," and they probably would, damn them! 

That doesn't mean it's okay to get it wrong. In the end, it is about communication. Everyone has to be able to get it. Everyone includes grammar nazis and also people for whom English is another language. We need to have an agreed set of rules if we want to be able to teach the language to others. We should be able to break them sometimes, but only if we know what we're doing. You have to know what the rules are before you can break them confidently. If you break them just because you don't know them, that's when you're not communicating. 

It's kind of hard to teach grammar, though, especially if you're naturally good at it. You can't explain. You just know what makes sense and what doesn't.

And then there are the textbooks. There are textbooks now which look cute and child-friendly and aren't. The textbook formerly used at my school is one of them. I hardly used it when it was on the book list, because you had to explain the contents of each page before the kids could do it. I used it only when I felt guilty - they had paid for it, after all. 

The other day, I had to look after the Year 8 ESL students, whose teacher was absent. She had left them work, but some didn't have the worksheet, for some reason. An obliging colleague gave me a page from the Year 7 textbook. I also had to look after my integration student, who just couldn't do the writing the rest of the class was doing, so I offered him the textbook page the ESL students were doing. He looked at it and said,"It's too hard!"  And, looking at it again, I realised that, for him, it was. 

Nevertheless, you do have to get grammar right if you want everyone to understand you. That said, there are some differences between English-speaking countries. Americans, for example, say, "of a" when the rest of us just say, "a". I know that for them, it's correct(just as it's correct to pronounce "herbs" as "erbs") but it drives me nuts when I get it in my slushpile. 

And then there's spelling. A lot of kids spell texting style. When you text someone, the more characters you use, the more it costs, so you text "Wot r u doing?" and when you aren't texting, you will probably write the same way out of habit. However, there are also rules in text(or txt?) speak. You have terms such as LOL and ROTFL which everyone understands. I have heard of someone,unfamiliar with these rules, who texted LOL meaning "lots of love" not "laugh out loud". This was not a good idea, as the person was sending a condolence to a friend who had just lost a family member!    

See? Communication! 

I teach literacy four mornings a week and have to explain to my students that when they do their spelling test after we've finished a word list, they must listen carefully to the sentence in which I put each word, because there are words that sound the same, but are spelled differently and mean completely different things. Mind you, I sometimes have to explain also that the rules of spelling are often messy and nearly always have exceptions, probably because of all the different people who invaded Britain over the centuries and left their own marks on the language. I tell them that sometimes you just have to know it.

But don't forget that spelling has changed over the centuries and at one time people didn't worry too much about it at all. Just look at a poem in Middle English to see what I mean. Or at Shakespeare that hasn't been fiddled with by modern editors.

And then there's American spelling, which is yet another kettle of fish. I won't go into that here, because it would take a post of its own!

What do you think? Is grammar and spelling important for communication?

Friday, October 17, 2014

Look What I Got! My Contributor's Copy!

Look what I have just picked up from the PO!


Isn't it lovely? My first sale for the year(so far my only - still waiting to hear about the others...)

And here's the page with my name on it.


I don't care how many sales I make, it's always, always exciting to see a printed page with your story and your name  on it. 

And lastly, here is the illo, done by the amazing David Allan, a regular artist for Christmas Press and me of the three who run it.


A great book, with stuff by a mixture of new and established writers. Buy it! 

Thank you to Sophie Masson,who invited me to submit something, and to the editor, Beattie Alvarez,and the   rest of the Chrissie press bunch.

If you want to know more, look them up on www.christmaspress.com.au

Bloggers Like Me And Marketing Companies

I have had three inquiries in the last two days from marketers paid by "indy" writers to organise blog tours for them. I've deleted all the inquiries without reply because they didn't bother to read my guidelines, such as checking their market. 

Well, they don't. Time - their time, not yours - is money. Like spammers, they figure if they send their inquiry to 1000 blogs, at least some will reply. And they're probably right about that. I'm just one of the many who won't.

I've seen these websites when, out of curiosity, I followed a link or looked them up after deleting their inquiry. They have scales of payment according to the services offered. Bug 100 blogs for you, $275. Pester 1000, $500. Organise fifty blog tours for you... And so on. If the inquiries I've had over the years are any indication, they don't do a very good job. 

Things have changed a lot since I started writing and being published. Promotions and marketing are HUGE now, since anybody and everybody can and does publish, even if they have to do it themselves. Services flow in to fill the space. It must be a bit like running a shop on the goldfields - why go and dig for gold that might never turn up when you can make definite money selling to the diggers?

Of course, goldfield shopkeepers had to supply the product or they ran the risk of being bashed up by crotchety diggers. Whereas many of these businesses don't. You can't get bashed up on the Internet, can you? Though you might just get a mention on such web sites as Writer Beware... And you have to be able to wade through them to find out which are value for money. Personally, if I was a self publisher I'd rather spend my money on a decent editor and a great cover artist and do my own marketing. Goodness knows, even as someone who doesn't self publish, I have to do quite a lot of marketing myself, because publishers don't bother with you any more once the book is out. The only publisher I have ever had which gave me ongoing support is Ford Street, a small press. And even Ford Street can't do everything. 

I don't always get responses myself, even though I do the right thing - I check out the potential blog "market", I email personally. Once, when I did send out a group email, I apologised to the bloggers, explaining it was a matter of urgency, but assuring them I had checked all of them out carefully before choosing them to approach. I think I heard from about three out of several. 

When I do reply, it's because the inquirer has done the right thing, addressing me by name, mentioning the name of my blog and showing me they have read my guidelines. Even if my answer is no, I am always polite and sometimes suggest another blog that might work better for them.

And I do get some interesting requests. Recently I heard from a young blogger, a girl of fourteen(about the age of my Year 8 students) who's blogging about classic novels and is a Tolkien freak. She asked me for a review of something by one of a list of classic writers, because she was doing a section on her blog about this and had noticed I do these things. I sent her a copy of a post I did on this site about one of Rosemary Sutcliff's books. When I hear from her that the post is live I will put the link up here. If I don't hear from her again because her mother is making her do her homework instead of blogging or school has started or whatever, well, it was an interesting experience and her blog is very pretty. 

Sometimes I offer a guest post to someone who has done the right things, but whose book I really don't have time to read, or who lives in the US or wherever, from which postage is just too much, since it's my policy not to review ebooks. I ask them to give me a post which is more than just a press release. When they send me a post that does it right - tells me about the author and why they wrote the book and what they had in mind and maybe the research they had to do - it makes a great post. When they ignore my request and send me a press release - usually via the marketing company they have hired -  I say no. My readers deserve better when they visit this site than advertising. I have unfollowed a few blogs that started off promising but whose posts  ended up as pure advertising. 

So it's rarely that I respond to professional marketing companies. Sometimes, yes, when they follow the guidelines, but rarely. I know they're just doing their job, but there's something heartless about this procedure.

What do you think? What would it take for you to employ a marketing company? 


Monday, September 29, 2014

On This Day: September 30 Meme

What happened:

Lots of battles! Too many, in my opinion. Never mind

1399: Henry IV, the subject of a lot of literature(Three plays by Shakespeare, if you count Richard II, plenty of novels) is proclaimed King of England.

1791: First performance of Mozart's gorgeous opera, The Magic Flute. There's also a Marion Zimmer Bradley novel inspired by it.  Being MZB, of course, she had to be terribly serious about it. Can't recall the title.

1955: Death of young actor James Dean, at the start of a promising career. Jack Dann's novel, The Rebel, is an alternative universe tale in which he survived.

Birthdays:

1913 Screenwriter Bill Walsh. Never heard of him? Well, if you saw Walt Disney movies in your childhood, you've probably seen at least one of his films. The Absent-Minded Professor and its sequel, Son Of Flubber. Mary Poppins. The Love Bug. Bedknobs And Broomsticks. And more.

1924 Truman Capote. I bet you've heard of him, even if you've never read his work. I have just learned that he was not only a childhood friend of Harper Lee, he was the inspiration for the character of Dill in To Kill A Mockingbird and some of his experiences were written into the novel.

There are some writers, including a number of spec fic writers but I haven't heard of them, so I'll add one death, in 1987, Alfred Bester, a big name spec fic writer, who was honoured in Babylon 5, by having a villain named after him, the Psi-Cop Alfred Bester. The telepath situation in the series is similar to that in his fiction.

And today, never mind what the Blogger date says, is International Blasphemy Day, when you are encouraged to go and say something rude about religion! :-)





Sunday, September 28, 2014

Vale Eugie Foster! (Reposted from the ASIM blog)

In yesterday's ASIM list, I read the sad news below. I posted it to the official ASIM blog, but thought it might also be worth posting it here. Eugie isn't the first ASIM writer to pass away in the last year. We also lost the delightful Gitte Christensen, who will, I hope, be the subject of another post.

Sad news this time. Sorry to hear that Eugie Foster (an author we published in ASIM) has lost her fight with cancer.

bests

Eds
__________________________________________________________________________________________
Eugie Foster, author, editor, wife, died on September 27th of respiratory failure at Emory University in Atlanta.
In her forty-two years, Eugie lived three lifetimes. She won the Nebula award, the highest award for science fiction literature, and had over one hundred of her stories published. She was an editor for the Georgia General Assembly. She was the director of the Daily Dragon at Dragon Con, and was a regular speaker at genre conventions. She was a model, dancer, and psychologist. She also made my life worth living.
Memorial service will be announced soon.
We do not need flowers. In lieu of flowers, please buy her books and read them. Buy them for others to read until everyone on the planet knows how amazing she was.
--Matthew M. Foster (husband)
----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Issues of ASIM in which Eugie appeared:

Issue 14 Body And Soul Art
Issue 18 The Life And Times Of Penguin
Issue 37 The Better To...

The first on the list, from an issue edited by Zara Baxter, is still available on the web, including in ebook, so it must have been a story of which she was proud. The third story is one I got in slush. It's a futuristic version of Little Red Riding Hood, as I recall, though not played for laughs, with a male RRH character.

Condolences to the family - and to the spec fic community, who have lost far too many storytellers in recent years.

Friday, September 26, 2014

On This Day: September 27: A Birthday Meme For Jonah!

Today is my great-nephew Jonah's third birthday. When he was born, I couldn't get the "Jonah-Man Jazz" out of my head and found it on YouTube. 

But today, my dearest Jonah, I will find some famous events and birthdays for you. Not all of them are going to be book-related, since there are so few, but all of them will be interesting - and as colourful as I can find.

On This Day: 

1066 - William of Normandy sets off to conquer England. (They'll teach you all this in Year 8)

1822 - Jean-Francois Champollion announces he's translated the Rosetta Stone. The Rosetta Stone was a stone found in Egypt that had three forms of writing on it - Greek, Egyptian "demotic" script and hieroglyphics. Now, in those days they could read Ancient Greek and demotic script, but not hieroglyphics. It was nothing very exciting, just something about the new king, but the thing is, it was the same decree in both the known scripts, so Champollion figured the hieroglyphs probably said the same thing. Tad da! Code cracked! Ever since then, when someone mentions that "this is the Rosetta Stone of..." whatever, it's about code cracking.

1905 - First publication of a blues song, this one called "Memphis Blues"

1998 - Google is launched! 

Birthdays On This Day

John Marsden, author of the Tomorrow When The War Began series and lots more. How cool is THAT! 

Irvine Welsh, author of Trainspotting, which was turned into a classic movie. 

And because I couldn't find any other writers I'd heard of, I'm slotting in an actor, Greg Morris, who played the technician Barney in the original Mission Impossible series - his son was in the remake, which was filmed here in Australia, as Barney's son, and his Dad made an guest appearance in the series as Barney.

Today is also World Tourism Day, which is kind of nice, since Jonah's Dad, my nephew Mark, is a travel agent when he isn't performing with his rock band or composing new songs. This year's theme is Tourism And Community Development. 

Happy birthday, Jonah!


Thursday, September 25, 2014

To Kill A Mockingbird Now Digital!

And I have bought it from iBooks!

I was thinking about what I might read for Banned Books Week before it's quite over when I suddenly remembered tat this amazing book is now available in digital form. Wondering if it was out yet, I opened iBooks at a bus stop... And there it was!

This is a book of which I will never tire. The students at my school do ask for it now and then. The only copy we had was a battered old paperback with the same yellow colour as it had when I was in my teens.

I must add it to my shopping list.

I know that some of my favourite students who had to study it didn't like it, which is a pity, but one of them, Ryan, chose it for his Banned Books Week reading - and he read it well and chose a very good bit that said something of what the book is about.

It's about so many things - not only racism, but growing up - and it's not only sad, it's funny and gentle and it also makes a point about prejudice against people who are simply different.

In The Help, one of the maids, who ges to clean at the home of a woman who has been snubbed by the community. By the bedside, she finds a copy of Mockingbird, which was new at te time hen the vl is set.

It also has mentions in various other books, such as another wonderful banned book my students were loving, The Perks Of Bring A Wallflower, in which the hero is reading a bunch of classics as extensions English. Even if I didn't like the book, I'd be pleased at how many classics are discussed in this one.

And there's a cheeky reference to the film in Pleasantville - no, I won't ell you, get yourself a copy from the video library and watch.

Any other Mockingbird fans out there?